GREAT FALLS — As concerns continue to grow about the spread of coronavirus and COVID-19 across the country, many organizations are canceling or postponing scheduled events.
Some of the events are at the national level, such as the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament and several professional sporting leagues, but the concerns are also hitting here in Great Falls and across Montana.
Here is a partial list of events in Great Falls that have either been postponed or canceled:
- "No More Violence Week" events have been postponed.
- State FFA Convention scheduled in Great Falls for March 25-28 has been postponed.
- Volleyball tournament at Great Falls High School on Sunday has been canceled.
- Kids' FUN Forum scheduled for Saturday, March 14th, has been canceled.
- State AAUW wrestling tournament scheduled for this weekend canceled.
- Great Falls Community Concert: The Sons Of The Pioneers on Wednesday, March 18th, has been canceled.
- CMR Museum's annual Russell Exhibition & Sale from March 19-21 has been postponed; all other Western Art Week events are - at this point - still a go.
- The annual "The Fire Within" ceremony/banquet scheduled for Thursday, March 26, has been postponed.
- Mighty Kids Expo has been postponed.
- Several GFPS activities have been affected - see below.
We have been told that the St. Patrick's Day Parade in downtown Great Falls may also be canceled, and are awaiting formal notice from organizers about their decision.
The list above is far from complete; if you have a scheduled event coming up in the next few weeks, you should get in touch with the event organizer to find out if it has been affected. We will post an updated article as we receive word of more canceled/postponed events.
As of the morning of March 13, there are NO confirmed cases of COVID-19 actually in Great Falls or anywhere in Montana, according to the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services. Here is the latest information for Montana from DPHHS as of Friday morning:
- Reported COVID-19 Cases in Montana: 1* (see below)
- Individuals monitored by public health: 30
- Individuals who have completed monitoring process: 26
- Individuals who remain under monitoring: 4
- Persons tested for CoVID-19: 55
- Persons with negative results: 55
- Persons with positive results: 0
We have received numerous messages from people who have heard rumors that there are confirmed COVID-19 cases at Malmstrom Air Force Base, and that Malmstrom has been "quarantined" or placed in lockdown status. We talked with officials at Malmstrom who stated that there are zero confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Malmstrom, and there have not been any quarantines or lockdowns. They also said: "Team Malmstrom leadership is continually monitoring the situation and working closely with the Montana Department of Health to coordinate prevention and response efforts in the local area. We are providing installation personnel and their families with up-to-date information on appropriate measures to prevent potential spread of the virus, as well as any impact to local activities. Our mission is a continuous one and we are prepared to continue to meet and exceed our mission objectives. Some changes we’ve executed are changes to gate procedures as well as single-point entry procedures at the clinic."
Malmstrom did implement a change on Thursday affecting all visitors to the base. Security Forces personnel at the entrance gates will no longer be touching ID cards of people coming on base. Malmstrom said in a Facebook post: "As you come up to the installation gates, you will need to show the Defender the front side of your card, then, when prompted, turn it around so the back side can be scanned and/or looked at. Once your card is scanned, follow the directions from the Defender. DO NOT proceed through the gate until you are directed to by the Defender so as not to cause confusion or initiate any other actions on the Defender’s part. Thanks for all your help."
We also received messages stating that Benefis Health System had two employees who tested positive; we talked with Benefis on Friday morning, and they said that there are no employees or patients who have tested positive at this point. Benefis is restricting visitors as a precautionary measure to their senior services facilities, including Grandview, Westview, Eastview, and Assisted Living.
We have received messages from people saying that some nursing homes in Great Falls have implemented restrictions on visitors because their residents are a higher-risk population due to their age and medical conditions. We are working to find out which facilities have implemented any such measures.
Great Falls Public Schools superintendent Tom Moore said on Thursday that all out-of-state travel and non-essential in-state travel is suspended indefinitely for GFPS staff and student groups. Moore said in an email to GFPS staff that all large gatherings or events sponsored by GFPS that are scheduled to happen after school and/or on weekends have been canceled or postpone until at least March 27. This includes but is not limited to concerts, drama productions, all athletic competitions, art shows, conferences and conventions, and proms and school dances.
Great Falls College-MSU and the University of Providence have both implemented policies to address the situation. Great Falls College-MSU announced on Thursday that it will be extending spring break one week for students so that faculty and administration can prepare to deliver classes remotely. Classes were originally set to resume on Monday, March 16.. The University of Providence said on Thursday afternoon that "...we have decided to deliver via online all campus courses/programs for the remainder of the semester. Students presently on Spring Break will be told not to return to campus this weekend."
The only confirmed Montana case is a Lake County woman who is currently in Maryland. Health officials in Maryland say the woman was last in Montana in November 2019, has not returned to the state since that time, and was not in Montana during the 14-day incubation period. Despite the fact that the woman is not in Montana currently and has not been in Montana since she was exposed and tested positive, current guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) mandate that her case is considered to be a "Montana" case. Click here for more information.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), as of March 12, there are 1,215 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the nation. There have been 36 deaths, most of them in Washington. Click here for the latest information about COVID-19 at the CDC website.